15 Hard Questions Parents Need Answered Now

The parenting experience is a journey full of learning and adapting. Parents will face issues that they diligently prepared for, and ones they never saw coming. It's a natural part of raising children with unique preferences, temperaments, and personalities. What makes the parenting role so dynamic is that it constantly keeps caregivers on their toes. Just as soon as mom or dad establish a routine, and get their newborn into a pattern of decent sleep, the whole process is thrown for a loop and baby starts waking sporadically for no apparent reason. As soon as a caregiver masters the perfect way to swaddle baby and put them to sleep, baby starts breaking out of that swaddle and attempting to roll over. In the blink of an eye, baby is ready to move past formula and onto milk. Now what?

These are just some of the issues parents face on a regular basis. If first time parents, there might be a lot of information seeking, or asking advice, and this is great! Other parents are one of the richest and wisest sources of information, because they've been there. They understand what it's like to deal with a teething baby, a constipated one, or even worse, a sick one with his or her first cough.

At the end of the day, when parents place that last goodnight kiss on the foreheads of their precious babies, they can rest easy knowing they've done their absolute best. They learned what they could, put as much of it into practice as possible, and can save the rest for tomorrow. There's always going to be room for growth, and there will always be more questions. Here are just 15 of some common questions new moms and dads might be worried about:

15 What Is Sleep Regression?

Sleep regression is tough! That's what. Okay, in all seriousness, sleep regression is a term used to refer to a period of time, usually 1 to 4 weeks, when a baby who has been sleeping well suddenly wakes multiple times during the night or skips naps. It tends to catch parents off guard, since they've relaxed into a routine of sleeping more regularly since baby is past the newborn phase. The most common time for a child to experience their first sleep regression is around 4 months of age. Another common bout comes at the 8 month mark, or sometimes as late as 9 or 10 months.

If that isn't enough to scare new parents, toddlers typically experience another sleep regression around 18 months, and again at 2 years. Sleep experts recommend offering comfort, extra feedings if necessary, and maintaining as much normality to the daily routine as possible. Sleep regression will pass, even if it doesn't feel like it at 3am with a wide-awake baby on your hip.

14 When Can Baby Use A Blanket?

Current safe sleeping guidelines dictate that a baby should be placed to sleep on his or her back on a firm mattress, with no bumpers, blankets, quilts, stuffed animals, or other loose objects of any kind. Tragically, research has shown that soft bedding including blankets and pillows increase the chance of suffocation or SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Once baby has celebrated their first birthday, the likelihood of dying from SIDS drops dramatically. After 12 months of age, a baby is generally more agile and able to remove themselves from potentially threatening situations, such as becoming trapped under a blanket or wedged between a blanket and stuffed animal. That said, it's best to limit anything placed in a crib after baby reaches 12 months old to a blanket or single security item, such as a plush animal. Parents must also remain vigilant and individually assess their child for readiness, since guidelines cannot be universally applied to all babies.

13 Is Sterilizing Bottles And Pacifiers Really Necessary?

In short, yes. However, it's really only vital before an item's first use, or if a family uses well water. While this may seem like a laborious task, bacteria and viruses from caregivers can accumulate in bottles and on pacifiers. Even with regular washing, sterilizing is an important part of ensuring proper cleanliness. With the boom in vented bottles meant to prevent gas in young babies, many parents will find hand washing the intricate parts quite difficult, if not impossible.

In the event that old milk or residue is left in hard to reach spots, properly sterilizing will help minimize the risk of transmitting bacteria to baby's immature immune system. Thankfully, most items can be placed on the top rack of a dishwasher and sufficiently sanitized with a thorough cycle. Otherwise, boiling for 5 minutes should do the trick.

12 How Long Can Breast Milk Sit Out?

Freshly expressed breast milk can be safely left at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours. In cooler rooms, this time period can be stretched toward 8 hours, but after that, milk must be immediately refrigerated or frozen. One awesome feature of breast milk is its naturally antimicrobial properties, which means that if baby takes only an once or two from a freshly pumped bottle, it can be finished or reused at room temperature hours later. Do not refrigerate partially used bottles for future use due to bacteria introduced by baby. Prepared formula, however, should not be used more than an hour or two after it has been mixed.

Parents can find extremely useful breast milk storage guidelines (charts and handy print outs) online with a simple Google search, since remembering the specific safety protocols can be a bit overwhelming for tired, new parents. Generally, breast milk can last 5 to 8 days in the refrigerator, 6 months in a standard freezer, and up to 12 months in a deep freezer. Keep in mind that breast milk naturally separates when refrigerated, and caregivers should never shake to blend. Instead, swirl breast milk gently to mix fats and liquids before gently warming by placing in tepid water prior to feeding baby.

11 When To Face Forward?

Car seat safety has been an issue at the forefront of social media and parenting circles for quite some time. There is an abundance of research available to validate the benefits of extended rear facing, or keeping a child in a rear facing car seat until at least 2 years old, or until they outgrow the weight or height limit of the seat. The ideal time to turn a child forward facing is in fact after ages 3 to 5, depending on their height, weight, and comfort in a rear facing seat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to keep toddlers rear facing well past their second birthdays due to the fact that it has been shown to be up to 5 times safer than forward facing. This is a striking statistic, and it's more than enough motivation for several states to enact laws requiring rear facing to age 2. Parents can check Car Seat Safety for detailed laws applicable to them.

10 How To Transition To Milk?

Making the transition from formula or breast milk to a regular milk product of choice is a big moment in a young child's life. Breast milk and formula are somewhat synonymous with the mental image of a baby, and there's something that feels foreign and uncomfortable about cutting them out. Of course, mom and dad's wallet will love the switch! Now, extended breastfeeding is wonderful for both baby and mom, and there's no reason to wean at 12 months, but experts agree that once baby hits a year old, they should be getting the bulk of their calories and nutrition from a well balanced diet of solid foods, making breast milk and formula less vital than before.

When it's time to transition to cow's milk, parents should consider slowly mixing it into breast milk or formula to get baby used to the different taste and texture. Reduce the amount of breast milk or formula in the mixture gradually over a couple of weeks until baby is simply drinking milk. Unless baby is well above average in weight, pediatricians recommend opting for whole milk until 2 years of age. Then, 2% or whatever the rest of the family is drinking, will be sufficient.

9 What Foods Should Baby Start With?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that babies are fed nothing but breast milk or formula for the first 6 months of life. Some pediatricians may recommend starting food at an earlier age due to medical reasons such as extreme reflux or failure to thrive, but parents should understand that solid food for babies under 12 months old is not meant to replace the calories or nutrition needed from breast milk and formula.

When it comes to choosing a first food for baby, the sky's the limit! Popular choices include: sweet potatoes, avocado, bananas, carrots, and squash. Parents can pure their own baby foods or opt for the ever growing trend of following baby-led weaning, which skips purees and involves dicing and cutting foods into baby safe sticks and pieces. Regardless of what a caregiver chooses, it's best to stick to one food for several days (5 to 7), in order to be sure baby has no reaction of any kind. Then, move to a different food and wait the same time period. Enjoy the mess! The fun is only beginning.

8 What Is Sleep Training?

Sleep training has become synonymous in recent years with what is referred to as the Cry It Out method. It involves a process meant to teach baby to both put themselves to sleep and stay asleep through a nap or typical night. The phrase "sleep training" refers to the beginning of the method, where parents place a content and drowsy baby down to sleep in his or her crib and leave the room while the child is still awake. Often, this process involves a period of crying or protest from baby, since they are most likely accustomed to being breastfed, rocked, or soothed to sleep. Typically, the sleep training process takes several nights of a similar routine, with checks at timed intervals from parents, before baby becomes comfortable drifting to sleep on their own without much distress.

There are several different sleep training methods in practice, with hundreds of books and experts on the topic all offering their proven way as the gold standard for peaceful nights. Advocates of the process swear by the results, while others find themselves unable to attempt sleep training due to the mutual distress for both parents and baby which will likely occur. It's truly up to each caregiver to decide whether sleep training is for them, and there is no right or wrong choice. There's absolutely no reason that a baby must be sleep trained, however some parents insist that it was necessary to their families' functioning and way of life, which is a completely valid statement, as only they know the inner workings of their family unit.

7 When To Stop Swaddling?

Every baby is completely unique. It may sound cliche, but it's the absolute truth. That's what makes the swaddling situation so tricky. While some newborns absolutely love being swaddled, others won't tolerate it. That said, once parents establish a routine of swaddling baby to sleep, it's tricky to know exactly when or how to phase the process out.

Swaddling is especially useful in the early months when a baby's natural Moro reflex results in their limbs suddenly flailing about, often causing them to wake. Babies tend to outgrow this reflex around 4 to 5 months, which also happens to be a prime time to gradually stop swaddling. Parents might try removing one arm from a swaddle at a time, then gradually loosening the whole blanket, before eventually phasing it out completely. Ultimately, experts recommend that babies sleep swaddle free if they are consistently breaking out of their swaddle, and especially if they are demonstrating the ability to roll onto their stomach.

6 How Many Naps Should Baby Be Taking?

Oh, nap time! It's a glorious and sacred part of any parent's day. After all, it tends to be mom or dad's only opportunity to get things done around the house without a baby on the hip or one giving chase on all fours. For many caregivers, the question of just how many naps baby should be taking is constantly in question. Because a baby's need for sleep depends greatly on their age, activity during waking hours, and health, every situation will be unique.

That said, there are general guidelines parents can use in an attempt to structure their little one's day. Typically, newborns to babies 2 months old sleep in 2 to 4 hour intervals, waking to eat. Babies 2 to 5 months generally take 3-4 naps a day, while babies 6 to 12 months old transition to 2-3 naps. By 12 months, most babies will be taking at most 2 naps per day with the average being 1. Parents should keep in mind that more important than the number of naps is the overall total hours slept and even baby's tendency to sleep through the nights, which is considered 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Any concerns parents have over their child getting enough sleep should be addressed at baby's check ups with the pediatrician.

5 What Toys Are Best?

The toy department is a magical yet mystifying place once baby is of the age to actually show interest in the options available. While parents probably had a few rattles, sensory toys, or books handy in the newborn phase, it tends to become obvious when baby is ready for more engaging toys. Caregivers will often wonder what makes for the best purchase with such an overwhelming selection available.

In this case, the best thing parents can do is rely on the trusty and sage advice of other parents. Make every effort to ask other parents what toys their children of a similar age are loving. Similarly, parents can research reviews online for popular toys by age. This is truly worth the time and effort involved, because parents tend to be savvy reviewers of toys they've invested both their hard-earned money and hopes in for their children.

4 Which Medicines Can Baby Take?

Deciding when to administer medication of any kind to a small child is a serious issue. Caregivers should relax and understand that so long as they thoroughly read the product labels, and give only the recommended dose, the safety and efficacy of medicines marked specifically for babies is great. In general, experts agree that acetaminophen (Infant Tylenol) is safe when used sparingly to treat fevers, discomfort, or other ailments in babies 3 months and older. Babies 6 months and older may take ibuprofen (Infant Motrin) as an alternative, and some parents find that their children respond better to one version or the other.

When it comes to colds in small children, cough suppressants or nasal decongestants are generally NOT recommended for children under 2 years old. Despite labeling for babies, The Food And Drug Administration (FDA) advises against using such products in babies. Instead, saline mists, humidifiers, and nasal suctioning is the best method for keeping baby as comfortable as possible.

3 When To Call The Doctor?

It's really tough to watch a young child suffer through a nasty cold or flu. Their small bodies and immature immune systems can be completely overwhelmed by the viruses that run rampant each year come flu season. It's important to understand that getting sick is a natural part of growing up. It's also essential to building antibodies to defend against future illnesses. As any parent with small children can attest, illness will happen. It's not a matter of "if," but "when." So, being prepared is always a good thing. Having some approved and age appropriate medicines on hand along with a quality thermometer for monitoring fevers is a good idea.

Plenty of fluids, acetaminophen for controlling a fever, saline mist, and a humidifier is generally all it takes to nurse a child through a cold. Parents should immediately notify a doctor of any illness in a child under 3 months old. Otherwise, for babies 3 months and older, call if a fever surpasses 102 degrees F, or if a mild fever persists more than 72 hours. Caregivers should also promptly notify a physician if their child is refusing to eat or not wetting a diaper for longer than 6 hours, is uncharacteristically fussy or cranky, is appearing to struggle while breathing in any way, or has an extreme cough which sounds very bad for more than 3 days. In general, parents and caregivers must listen to their instincts. If they have a concern regarding a child's well being, it's always a good idea to make the call.

2 When Will Teething Stop?

Once the teething process truly begins, it seems to last for years. That's because it truly does. A baby's first tooth typically erupts (breaks through the gums) around 6 to 10 months. Generally, the bottom teeth, or central incisors will be first, followed by the lateral incisors right beside them. Incredibly, some babies will make it to 8 or 9 months with no teeth, only to have 5 or more of them make a sudden appearance in a week! There's simply no hard and fast rule when it comes to teething. That said, parents will most likely know there's something brewing when baby insists of gumming wildly on anything they can get their hands on. Baby may also develop a new and persistent habit of chewing on their fingers or hands to relieve the pressure they're experiencing. Offer teething toys in this case to help prevent sores or even blisters from their manic chomping.

By the time a child's second molars have cut through, which typically occurs after their second birthday, the teething process is nearly done. The first teeth are the toughest in terms of baby's comfort, so hang in there, and keep the cold, textured toys coming!

1 How Long Between Dirty Diapers Is Okay?

This is another perfect example of how each and every baby is very unique. For some newborns, multiple bowel movements a day are completely normal. For others, they may go several days without dirtying a diaper. Depending on the age, diet (breast milk vs. formula), and condition of a baby, there's a wide range of normal here. For babies older than 8 weeks, parents should not be concerned if their child goes 4 to 6 days between dirty diapers. Most importantly, if baby seems comfortable, they're likely just fine!

That said, there are a few things parents should be on the look out for if they suspect a problem with constipation. If a baby has: blood in his or her stool, is persistently crying, has a fever, or isn’t feeding normally for any extended period of time, parents should promptly notify a doctor and seek medical care. Also, yellow or green spit-up or vomit in a baby not being fed solids can indicate a medical emergency, and baby should be taken to see a doctor right away.

Sources: BabySleepSite.com, CarSeatsForTheLittles.com, CPSC On Safety, WhatToExpect.com, MedelaBreastfeeding.com

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